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technology2Scientists from the Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences (SB RAS) developed a bio-degradable polymer based on polystyrene (an amorphous thermoplastic material) and alpha-angelica-lactone – an organic compound found in certain plants.

The new polymer may decompose completely in the forest soil during seven months. The results of their study are published in the Journal of Siberian Federal University. Chemistry.

Polystyrene is widely used for manufacturing disposable tableware and packaging materials, and hence it often pollutes the environment as waste. Just like most other plastics, polystyrene requires very long time to decompose negatively affecting the eco-system. This problem may be resolved by way of creating a bio-degradable plastic with minimum environmental impact.

To achieve that, the scientists from the Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of SB RAS added the organic compound alpha-angelica-lactone received from plant materials (including fructose and cellulose) to polystyrene structure. The researchers performed an experiment placing the new polymer samples into the forest soil. The observations showed: the new materials is degraded by microorganisms (bacteria and fungi) as it is a source of carbon for them. Even though the new polymer was as strong as standard polystyrene, it degraded completely within seven months.

The Institute of Chemistry and Chemical Technology of SB RAS quotes Konstantin Kaygorodov, a junior research associate and a participant of the study, as saying: “The results showed that the modification of polystyrene with α-angelica-lactone did not negatively affect the mechanical properties of the co-polymers and made them bio-degradable. The products resulting from such bio-degradation are not toxic”.

Previously, the scientists from the Nesmeyanov Institute of organic elemental compounds of RAS and the Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology developed a composite film for food packaging based on plant polymers capable not only of protecting food from ultra-violet radiation, but also of giving food the ability to “breathe”. The new film allows for the food storage life extension and is fully bio-degradable, hence, it may become a good alternative for the non-recyclable packaging.

Based on globalenergyprize.org